|Photograph by John Russo
Back in August I had lunch at Miller Union, where co-owner Neal McCarthy had heard that we were trying to get The Walking Dead stars to appear on our November cover. Turns out the entire cast had just been at the restaurant a few nights before. Why? Each time another character is killed off, the actors gather to toast their departing comrade and, no doubt, wonder when their own time is up. After all, the first rule of a zombie apocalypse has to be that zombies don’t discriminate when it comes to mealtime. So while it was no shock to learn that at least one character will die this season, we’ll have to wait to see precisely who gets the ax. Hershel? Glenn? Carl? Surely not Rick! Or Daryl!
Well, who knows? In Los Angeles in early October, I got to talk with Norman Reedus (who plays Daryl, the enigmatic redneck with the crossbow) and Andrew Lincoln (who plays Rick, the deputy sheriff who, until last season anyway, led the ragtag group of survivors). Both Daryl and Rick have suffered almost preposterous losses (Rick, for example, had to stab his best friend, and his son actually had to shoot his own mother, Rick’s wife, after she gave birth. If you have to ask . . . ) In the three-plus years since they first met, Lincoln and Reedus have become close friends, which is obvious when they’re together. Both bust each other’s chops (Reedus tends to sign his bar tabs with Lincoln’s name and then send Lincoln a picture of his raised middle finger), but both are generous in their praise of the other. Most jarring while talking to Lincoln is getting used to his British accent, which he suppresses on set so successfully that some crew members didn’t realize until after the first season that not only is he not from the South, he’s not even American.
Atlanta figured prominently in our discussion. Both actors live here during production—Lincoln in the city with his wife and two children; Reedus south of it, near Senoia, where much of the show is filmed—and both seemed genuinely saddened when I brought up the idea of production moving outside of Georgia. (The graphic novel on which the show is based moves the action to Washington, D.C., but there has been no word yet on when or if that will happen in the show, which does not follow the book religiously.)
In the meantime, Lincoln and Reedus have hit the publicity tour for the show’s fourth season. Both actors say they’ll be attending the Walker Stalker convention in Atlanta in early November (walkerstalkercon.com), and Reedus is releasing a book of photography on October 31.
Note: This is an extended version of the interview that appeared in the magazine.
The Walking Dead is filmed in Georgia in the heat of summer. Does part of you wish you could film it here in Los Angeles, with the milder temperatures, the temperate breezes?
Andrew Lincoln: I love being in Atlanta. So much of the success of the show is because we film there, away from the industry. We’re in a bubble in Senoia. You’re not caught up in the whole business end of things. We’re on location, so it forces us to get closer as a unit. It was a part of the country I’d never been to before, as well.
What was your perception of it before?
Lincoln: My perception was always a terrible cliche—the Southern hick kind of town. Then you go to a metropolis like Atlanta, and you think, This is incredibly sophisticated and very urbane. But my reference point had been “Dueling Banjos” in Deliverance.
Lincoln: But I was struck by the manners, the family attitude, the very respectful generational attitude, which a lot of the world has lost. I also love the mix. It’s an incredibly culturally diverse city and it’s got great food. I mean, Miller Union, Chai Pani, all these amazing eclectic restaurants that I love. It’s also got the best coffee shop in the world, Aurora Coffee.
Has the way you’ve interpreted your character changed at all based on having lived there?
Lincoln: No, it’s a completely different thing. It began as very much observational. The speech, the dialect, you’re slowed down by the weather. People speak slower. I worked hard at getting that sound right. As you spend more time with this guy, you build other things. Senoia helps. The studio is very protected. And I commute. My family lives in Atlanta. [My kids] go to school there. And I have a Georgia license!
You stood in line?
Lincoln: I had to go straight from work after doing this incredible fight scene. I was full of blood. I wiped it all off—I thought. And then they took the picture of me and I look like a serial killer. There’s blood on my neck, blood on my head. The woman said, “You had a bad day at the office, baby?”
I read you don’t watch the show.
Lincoln: It’s not just this show; it’s been for the last fifteen years or so. I watched a little bit of This Life [a BBC drama Lincoln starred in during the mid-1990s], and maybe a couple of episodes of Teachers [another British series]. And now I’m done. It just doesn’t help. If I watch something and I like something I do, then I’d try to replicate it. That’s self-consciousness, and I’m trying to put myself out of the equation. I don’t want to be in it. The enjoyment and satisfaction I get is from the doing of it.
So how can you understand the obsession people have with this show when you don’t even watch it?
Lincoln: I get it because I live it, man! You’re just watching it. I get to live it. I adore this job, and I’m deeply invested in this job on so many levels because of the friendships I’ve made. When you work on a set, you get to see people sick, you get to see them well, you get to see marriages break up, you get to see them reunite, you live all the other aspects of doing the job with a community of people. Two hundred fifty people work on this show. They become part of your daily life. And I sacrifice so much, time wise, from my family, that if I didn’t care about it as much as you guys do, there’d be something wrong.
You just turned forty. Any revelations?
Lincoln: No, just grayer. And my joints ache a little bit more in the morning. There’s something about having a midlife crisis and being able to zombie-slay in the middle of it. Yeah, people buy Ferraris, and I choose to rid the world of the zombie horde.
Did you do anything?
Lincoln: Well, my birthday forevermore has been hijacked by my daughter’s. She’s four days before me. So it was all about her. It was her sixth birthday. I flew back [to England], got back for her birthday, and on my birthday I took my wife and twelve six-year-old girls to the circus. That was my fortieth.
There are degrees of mania with this show. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen?
Lincoln: Norman gets all the weird stuff. He’s the weird filter.
So what exactly is the appeal with him?
Lincoln: He’s one of the rare people the more you get to know him, the more is revealed. Most people spend their time trying to describe themselves to you. “This is who I am.” And invariably as you get to know them better they become less interesting. [Norman’s] one of the few people who becomes more interesting. He’s an extraordinary actor and he does it effortlessly. And it’s going to sound pretentious—because always when you talk about acting it sounds pretentious, which is why I generally don’t talk about it—but he’s a minimalist. He does the minimal amount of effort for the biggest reward. It’s very refined and very brilliant. A lot of people say, “Oh, he just does cool.” The first time I met him, I was like, “You just went to cool school.” But the more you get to know him, [you realize] he’s very sensitive. He’ll hate me saying this, but he has a very good heart, he’s very loyal and incredibly bright. His instincts are some of the best I’ve seen in an actor.
We were just talking about you.
Reedus: Son of a bitch! [To attractive server] I’ll have a Jack and Coke. Do me nice, do me nice.
Server: [Laughs] Okay. Anything else for you guys?
Reedus: And a pack of Parliament Lights.